MELOZZO DA FORLI
(b. 1438, Forli, d. 1494, Forli)
Vaulting decoration of the Sacristy of St Mark1477-82
Basilica of Santa Casa, Loreto
Cardinal Girolamo Basso della Rovere called Melozzo to Loreto to decorate the sacristy of the Basilica of the Santa Casa. This remarkable building was being constructed by Giuliano da Sangallo to enshrine the Holy House (Santa Casa) of the Virgin Mary, which tradition held had been brought from the Holy Land to Loreto by angels in the fourteenth century. Although Melozzo never completed the commission, which involved wall paintings as well, it is his only cycle that survives in its original spot unaltered.
Melozzo has painted each face of the dome with ornamental paneling composed of his favourite elements - guilloches, acanthus, bead-and-reel, palmettes, and dolphins - converging on a central garland of Della Rovere oak leaves that embraces the cardinal's coat-of-arms. Melozzo painted figures that seem to sit or float in the actual space of the sacristy.